ROLLA — An economist with the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis says there are some mixed signals coming from the region.
Companies are starting to get concerned, while consumers are spending money and have higher levels of confidence, business economist Kevin Kliesen told a recent gathering of the Rolla Regional Economic Commission.
It all adds up to his prediction that 2020 will see modest growth at a slower rate than the past two years.
“We talk to a lot of businesses, and they tell us that they turned a little bit cautious in terms of hiring, and putting in place capital investment,” Kliesen said. “I think a lot of that has to do with the uncertainty with the trade outlook and some other things.”
The Trump administration’s trade war, including regular tweets from the president on the subject, have made some industries, including agriculture, skittish.
“I could have changed the topic and tenor of this presentation 20 times this past week, especially if you follow Twitter,” Kliesen joked with the audience of business leaders and elected officials.
While employers are concerned, Kliesen said the average person does not share that worry.
“You know, by contrast, consumers, and all of us are consumers, still look to spending at pretty healthy rates,” Kliesen said.
Unemployment in the St. Louis area is 3.4%. Rolla’s is 3.3% and Quincy’s 3.8%. The region is doing slightly better than the nation, which has a jobless rate of 3.9%.
“I think job growth will continue,” Kliesen said. “Maybe not to the same degree it did last year, but certainly I don’t see anything that, as we stand right now, that would suggest that firms are ready to begin shedding jobs in response to a weakening economy.”
Kliesen said he expects the economies in St. Louis, Rolla and Quincy to continue their trend of pacing marginally better than the national averages.
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